1. Little Boy Lost
He'd been wandering the streets for hours now, lost in more ways than one. He was cold. He was hungry. He couldn't find home. He wanted his Mama. But she was angry with him. He'd done bad things again he knew, but it was all confused in his head like one of his jigsaw puzzles whilst it was still in the box, just a jumble of coloured pieces.
He was afraid. His cuts hurt. Some local boys had thrown stones at him earlier. He'd only gotten away from them because he was small and had fit through a hole in a fence that they couldn't. He wanted Mama.
He was stumbling over his feet, sight blurring with exhaustion. There was a tattered canopy overhanging one of the back doors in the alley which looked like the one at home, only it was striped green and white instead of red and white. But he checked the door anyway, just to make sure. It was locked and he couldn't hear anything from behind it. He couldn't walk anymore, so he just curled up on the stoop, wrapped his arms around himself and shut his eyes.
"Naoe? Nagi Naoe?"
Consciousness returned to him reluctantly, trailing grogginess and disorientation.
"Nnn... ?" he mumbled.
"Naoe, wake up little one."
It was dark. There was a man bending over him, tall, with black hair and a light-coloured suit. He shocked into full consciousness, scrabbling backwards against the door with a frightened cry.
"Hush, it's alright Naoe-kun," the man had a low, soothing voice, "I'm not going to hurt you."
The man knew his name.
"M... m... mama?" he could barely get the word out. He was shaking, it was too cold and he couldn't stop shaking.
"He's going into shock."
There was someone else there. The man in front of him straightened, pulled off his jacket and then leant down again, wrapping it around him. The sensation of warmth seeping into his body distracted him from being lifted and held, snug against the man's chest. The man walked back down the alley to the main street and a big car, and then the warmth of the car's interior enveloped him.
"Mama?" he asked again, the word nothing more than a soft whisper.
"Mama can't come to you now, Naoe-kun," the man replied, still cradling him, "So we're going to take you somewhere safe. Just close your eyes and go to sleep, there’s a good boy."
The man brushed a kiss across his forehead. Just like Mama used to do. Before. He clutched the man's coat, turned his face into the man's shoulder and shut his eyes. There was silence inside the car for the next several minutes. Eventually the man spoke,
"Such a little body to hold so much power."
Several differing emotions gave rise to the statement, but sadness was the one that permeated it.
"What are we going to do with him?" the man's companion asked.
"Keep him. Train him. Take care of him."
Takatori Suuichi gently brushed several loose hairs off the face of Kritiker's newest weapon, then turned his head to watch the night go rushing past him.
Anna crooked her leg over his right hip and did that shimmying push upwards with her hips that he adored. He gave a hoarse cry as he was sucked deeper and she laughed in his mind like lemonade and violets. His fingers clutched her fingers and he dragged his mouth away from where it had been, from hot gasps steaming her neck, and sealed his lips over hers until they parted to give him admittance.
Tongues entwined; unneeded instruments for the most part, when he could stretch himself across her emotions and wrap himself in her thoughts. When he could feel her from the inside even more thoroughly than with the cock he moved in and out of her, pressing harder and faster and further as the pleasure blurred him into her into him.
Thoughts tangled like their hands, like waves, washing back and forth. Gentle thrusting was abandoned for desperate hard fucking, tenderness discarded for mutual possession and the desire to burrow so far under each other’s skin there was no difference, no boundaries. Just lips and bodies and minds clasped so tightly there was only one moaning, shifting form, wound tighter and tighter and tighter until he/she/they shattered.
He was careful to collapse onto the bed to the side of her. Though he thought the fact he had enough wit to do so was amazing after his mind-blowing performance.
*Huh… Schwein… huh…*
Anna still reflected in her mind any physical breathlessness she felt. It was one of her silly little quirks.
*But I’m your Schwein, liebe.*
When he’d caught
his breath back he dried his cock off with the tissues provided on the bedside
table, threw them in the rubbish-bin, and then turned to cuddle her. The sight
was a twist to his heart. She was languid and flushed and dewy with sweat, limbs
sprawled wantonly upon the bed. He inhaled her scent deeply, then pulled the
duvet up to cover her. It was still too hot for him but Anna caught chills easily,
and he always had to fuss at her to take better care of herself. He snuggled
close and nuzzled her hair, kissed her forehead. She gave a pleased murmur so
he continued, little feathery touches across the flushed cheek, breath blowing
lightly over her skin. Anna gave a small giggle and squirmed a little away from
him. He continued to trail kisses over her jaw, down her neck to her collarbone
and the scar. Just an inch or two higher. Just an inch.
*It’s alright,* her thoughts were already a sleepy mumble, *I’m here, I’m fine.*
But if only he’d been faster. If only he’d heard them sooner. If only…
yourself, Aaron. They’re the one’s who’re guilty. Now sleep.* and Anna’s
thoughts dissolved into the cobwebs of dreaming.
He wrapped his arms around her and tried to recapture the dazed contentment of a moment ago, but it was gone. All he could think about was the watching cameras. And the fact that they were here.
He willed himself to go to sleep whilst he still held the world in his arms.
The boy’s face finally loosened into sleep.
“So, that’s your new telepath. As you can see, he’ll be easy enough to control.” Reissen gave a thin smile that expressed no amusement whatsoever.
Crawford studied the couple on the bed and silently disagreed with his superior. They made a sensual picture, entangled pale limbs and long hair, both faces innocent and beautiful in slumber. But the boy wore a faint frown and an almost indiscernible twist of dissatisfaction to his mouth. These intimations of resistance pleased Crawford however; they backed up the sparse flashes of the future his Talent had shown him. And certainly the boy, no, Aaron, was easy on the eyes. Crawford trailed his gaze down Aaron’s naked form and found himself wanting. He scrutinised Aaron’s lover, cataloguing voluptuous curves instead of sleek muscle, but an otherwise almost ide… his Talent kicked in briefly. The future glimpse surprised him.
“She’s pregnant?” he enquired, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, two months,” replied Reissen.
“Isn’t that a little dangerous?”
Reissen shrugged, unconcerned. “There shouldn’t be any major genetic repercussions for first generation offspring. She’s a Healer, not as powerful as he is, but it’s an even rarer Talent than precognition,” there was a subtle warning there, Crawford was sure, although he was uncertain of its purpose. “Hopefully if we breed them we’ll either get another strong Telepath or a Healer.”
“Surely artificial insemination… ?” Crawford let the question tail off.
“Oh, they were fucking each other before we picked them up. Tonight was a reward for good behaviour. We had… discipline problems with them originally,” this little piece of information clicked a future pattern into place, “But threaten one twin and the other falls into line pretty quickly. And once the child is born,” again came the humourless smile, “I doubt there’ll be any problems whatsoever.”
This time Crawford smiled back at Reissen, amused at his shortsightedness.
3. The Lamb
The day he almost damned his immortal soul to Hell was still his nightmare.
His mind, microscoping down to the leather and wire of the swordhilt cutting into his hand; the sharp, dark edge of rage limning his sight. Just a feather’s weight away from murder. Thereafter a constant stone’s weight upon his soul.
Full of grace
Fall from grace being a matter of intent, not just action, contrition kept him on his knees. Cold marble floors, cold comfort.
The Lord is with thee.
The Lord had embraced a sinner such as Mary Magdalene had been. Jei could not refuse his own mother, no matter what her sins.
Blessed art thou amongst women
It had been hard, had taken years. But finally he had forgiven, had accepted.
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb
At first he had thought his changes were punishment, before he’d realised they were gift and test, both. He had passed that test.
As he had passed this one. They had come to him in the House of the Lord, and he had recognised past evils before him.
He had seen that same tight focus in the tall American’s face, that same razor blade of rage in the red-haired devil’s eyes.
Mother of God
He had refused them, for he served only God. And then they left him.
Pray for us sinners
In a state of grace. On his knees.
Now and at the hour of our death.
“Well, that was one hell of a fuckup,” Schuldig commented, not specifying whether he meant the person or the situation. “So how does this alter The Plan, oh brilliant leader?”
A scowl of annoyance was aimed his way before Crawford turned and exited the chapel.
“It doesn’t, it’s just an inconvenience. As long as we get the telekinetic we’re fine. Now come on, I’ve wasted enough time in this backwater.”
“Amen to that!” was Schuldig’s fervent reply as he followed Crawford, stepping over the corpse on the floor.
4. A Poison
His mother gave him a canary for his sixth birthday.
It was the only pet she ever let him own. The bird was a bright orangey-yellow with dashes of white on its wings, and its feathers looked soft and glossy. To be honest it was rather a girly present, but he loved it at first sight nonetheless. It wasn’t a tidy bird, despite its prettiness. It fluttered and hopped about its cage constantly, scattered its seed through the bars of the birdcage onto the polished wood floors below, and chirped almost incessantly. But it didn’t sing.
He talked to it. Whistled to it. He changed its diet. Left the birdcage with the night cover off for several days. Left it with the night cover on for a couple more. It still wouldn’t sing.
A trip to the school library gave him the reason. As usual his mother hadn’t bothered to make more than superficial enquiries about her gift. The canary was a female. Only male canaries sang. It was a deep disappointment to him but he decided he didn’t mind. He loved her nonetheless.
He sat on his bed waiting, the night they came to take him.
He could have run away, hidden somewhere and probably used his whatever-it-was to elude them; could have made some excuse to get mother and the servants out of the house; could have chosen any one of several viable paths. Instead he sat and waited, knowing this night would end in quiet death and concealing flame for everyone in the house but him.
The visions had hit him during dinner. Disorientation first, then pain as he tried futilely to quash the fit. When it was over, he found himself pressed cheek-down into his salad.
“Bradley… ” His mother’s voice was a trembling quaver.
He quickly pulled his head up, wiping his face with his napkin, thinking disjointedly it was just as well he ate his salads without any dressing.
“I… if you’ll excuse me mother,” he managed, and stumbled out of his chair.
He didn’t need to look at her to imagine her disappointed expression.
“I’m so sorry, dear, but you just can’t keep going on like this,” her voice followed him out the door, “I think we’re going to have to have a more serious talk with Doctor Waltham.”
It wasn’t just hunger or the after-effects of the fit that caused his stomach to roil.
About the time he estimated they had reached the house, he wandered to the French doors to look outside. There was nothing to be seen, he knew, or at least not from where his bedroom was situated. The moonlight illuminated Valencia’s covered cage, and he turned to it and pulled the night cover off. Again, he was flooded with visions of what could be.
In almost every single one of them, he covered the birdcage back up. By morning it would be nothing more than a small lump of metal slag; another unrecognizable piece of still-smoking debris amidst the obliteration of his childhood.
In a few of the visions, he set her free. Cage-tame and conspicuous, she didn’t live more than a fortnight before being eaten or dying of exposure. But at least she had died free.
He tossed the material back over the cage, turned his back and walked away.
He was almost to the bed when a squawk and a cheep of enquiry announced her wakefulness. He stopped. For an endless moment every action of his past and every decision of his future were in balance, then he whirled, ran back to the cage, pulled off the cover and opened the door.
*There’s no need for that.* Laurent pushed the retrieval-team leader’s gun arm down. The soldier looked askance at the telepath.
“Seems young Mr Crawford is more than happy to be coming with us,” the telepath looked amused. “And isn’t too fussed about the manner of our leaving either. He should do well at Rosenkreuz.”
The soldier grunted,
but opened the door cautiously and with a raised gun anyway. The boy they had
come to retrieve stood by the open French doors; moonlight shading his figure
in tones of grey and black, reflecting silver off his glasses. Despite the lateness
of the hour he was fully dressed and appeared unsurprised to see them – not
remarkable in itself given his supposed Talent. The boy, Bradley, was holding
something in his clasped hands, some sort of bird the soldier realised as the
thing gave a small chirp. For a second he assumed Bradley was going to set it
free out the window, then there was a small *crack* as the boy broke
5. The Human Abstract
“You look like a Duran Duran video escapee,” Brad commented wryly when Nagi walked into the kitchen.
“Who?” Non-comprehension was Nagi’s only reaction.
“Forget it. Passé 80’s pop band.”
Style-victim status aside, he thought Nagi’s new hairstyle and work clothes were in fact an improvement on his previous uniformed-schoolboy/shota look. Brad inspected the telekinetic slowly from the toes up, realising he was receiving the same treatment in return. When Nagi’s gaze reached the monocle however, there was a suspicious quiver to his mouth. Nagi bit his bottom lip. Brad glared, silently daring him to utter any of the potential comments that had flashed into Brad’s mind - without any application of his Talent necessary.
“Nice dye job”
Brad drew in a deep breath, preparatory to a scathing retort, when the door was thrown open and Schuldig stormed in.
“Look what they’ve done to me! Just look at this! Those verdammt butchers! My hair, my lovely hair - and these clothes! Just because I’m German I should wear a fisherman’s cap and bracers?” He cast a raking look over the other two, “We look like we’re in a bloody Victorian-Nazi-porn flick!”
Actually, Crawford rather enjoyed Victorian-Nazi-porn movies. He also thought Schuldig looked quite tasty.
Crawford flinched at the escalating scale of Schuldig’s voice, as well as the rabid mental fury the telepath was broadcasting.
“I’m a disaster! I refuse to be seen in public like this, let alone another whole series! I’m going on strike until they redo my hair and return my dress sense.”
Nagi and Crawford involuntarily looked at each, stunned, then quickly turned back to Schuldig, innocent and bland looks on their faces respectively.
Crawford mouth engaged before his common sense did – not that non-verbalisation was ever much use against the telepath,
“Schuldig, you never had any dress sense to lose in the first place.”
Oops. Crawford Foresaw himself sleeping on the couch for the rest of Glühen.